Musings from the South Stand #2: Embarrassment of Riches?
Now we’re talking! Last night’s emphatic victory over Tranmere underlined the importance of Darren Moore’s business in the January transfer window, as two new acquisitions netted their first Doncaster Rovers goals to earn three precious points on the road.
In my first column of 2020, I preached patience on the matter of signings as fans began to doubt the seriousness of the club’s ambitions. Darren Moore continually stressed that work was being done behind the scenes and he was ultimately vindicated with four new additions coming through the doors of the Keepmoat in the final week of the month.
The first real taste of what Moore has added to the squad came on the Wirral as Jacob Ramsey was brought in for his debut. The 18-year-old arrives with a strong reputation at youth level but was making his first senior start, in place of a player in Ben Sheaf who has ben a virtual ever-present for Rovers this season, so he had a lot to live up to.
Live up to it he did with two superbly taken goals to send Rovers into a commanding lead, and he could’ve had a hat trick if not for a terrific bit of defending in the first half. His confident, quality showing on a pitch better suited to donkey rides than football lays down a marker for the rest of the season and underlines the expectation of these fresh faces in the squad.
Devante Cole put in two sterling performances off the bench before making his first start at Tranmere, and whilst he was unable to find the net as the lone striker his efforts helped pull Rovers along to a display of general control over their struggling opponents. Our new #9 Fejiri Okenabirhie came off the bench to replace him and duly scored his first goal for the club to seal what proved a comfortable 3-0 victory in the end.
We’re still yet to see the talents of Crystal Palace winger Jason Lokilo, a surprise last-minute arrival on Deadline Day, but he along with the trio of debutants of the past few days represent a big step forward for the squad and for the manager.
It was always going to take time for Moore to shape the Rovers squad in his own image. His tactical applications have borne fruit in recent weeks with some encouraging performances and some truly impressive results against fancied sides. He did his best to augment what he already had under the pressure of limited time in the summer and has now further boosted his resources with a productive mid-season window.
One swallow does not a summer make, though. It will undoubtedly take at least the summer transfer window and perhaps even another January recruitment drive in 12 months’ time to truly see the full force of Darren Moore’s Doncaster Rovers vision. Another moderate reshuffle may be needed after the 2019/20 season concludes, with contracts expiring and a tough run-in ahead of us allowing some to show up whilst others fade into obscurity.
That realisation then is something we must not hold against the manager or the club. The additions made in the past week have significantly increased our attacking clout and created depth that we have been craving for arguably the last several years. There are now 3-4 solid first team options for each of the midfield and forward positions, whilst defensively we look stronger and more settled than at any time since the days of Rob Jones.
It feels like an embarrassment of riches, and in some ways it is. But it is not yet a long-term strength of the club and that is something that will have to be enhanced in the summer. Whether or not we reach the Play-Offs this year, the work done to move on from the Ferguson/McCann era has to be applauded. This feels like a proper step forward for Doncaster Rovers and in Darren Moore we have a beacon of optimism and an attainable goal to strive towards.
Trust the process, and bring it on.